The ovaries are the central command of women’s bodies, directly impacting heart health, brain health, immune function, and more. So why are they the only organs we simply let fail? Piraye Beim, PhD, is determined to improve ovarian health and research via her company Celmatix, a women’s health organization developing therapeutics based on what makes women’s bodies unique. Here, the molecular biologist demystifies HRT, talks menopause misconceptions, and explains exactly why ovarian function is essential to overall health.

Why do you call menopause a public health crisis?

For women who have a life expectancy that is decades beyond the end of their ovarian function, it is the single biggest accelerant of unhealthy aging for women. Examples of unhealthy aging are the things that we associate with aging in general: cardiovascular disease, dementia, autoimmune disorders, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, et cetera. These things we assume are just happening because we’re aging, but what we know from the science is that these things are accelerated by the end of ovarian function. A lot of women don’t realize that.

Why is ovarian health crucial to overall health?

The ovary and ovarian function are related to cardiovascular health, to brain health, immune function, mood, weight gain, metabolism, virtually every aspect of our health. The ovary, and the factors that it emits, communicates with virtually every cell in your body. When the ovary is not in balance, when ovarian health is not functioning correctly, it can impact virtually every aspect of our health and wellness.

How should we be thinking differently about menopause?

Many people consider menopause, which is when the ovary stops functioning, to be a natural phenomenon. But the reality is that it’s a completely modern phenomenon, and it’s a consequence of how successful we’ve been in other aspects of healthcare. A hundred years ago, most women died before the age of 50 with a fully functioning ovary. Now, the average life span for a woman in the United States is over 80. Given the ovary stops functioning around 50, that means that not only are we outliving our ovarian function, but we’re outliving it by decades. We can’t just normalize menopause and consider it a natural phenomenon that’s a rite of passage. We have to see it for what it is, which is a public health crisis, the end of the function of a critical, vital organ.

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In a refreshingly candid conversation with Oprah Daily Insiders, Oprah, Maria Shriver, Drew Barrymore, and doctors Sharon Malone, Heather Hirsch, and Judith Joseph, we set the record straight on all things menopause. Become an Oprah Daily Insider now to get access to this conversation and the full "The Life You Want” Class library.

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